Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Now Open - Coffin Shop in the Morgue Waiting Room!

A serious question on Health care Reform - really. If you enjoy simply bashing conservatives and/or liberals, tune out now. I'm interested in hearing a well-informed, educated discussion regarding this specific issue.

I was discussing health insurance with a young person (early 20s) who told me they hadn't had insurance coverage since they dropped out of college at the age of 19 and moved out of their parents home. I mentioned that I had to go about 3 months without health insurance and how scary I found that feeling. I told them I would say a little prayer every time I got in the car that Jesus protect me because I couldn't afford an accident even if it wasn't my fault.

This person looked a bit perplexed and said that the emergency room is always free so they didn't worry about that. I responded that while the ER must treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay, you would get a bill for the services - a rather big bill. Yes, they said, but those bills go away if you ignore them long enough.

I walked away really thinking about that. This person really thought that the ER was a free service not because they don't pay their bills, but because the ER HAD to provide care to everybody. This person doesn't have insurance because they cannot afford it and while that concerns them, they don't worry overmuch because in their mind, that is what the ER is there for.

Now I have family that lives in Tucson, a metro area of approximately 1 million people, where all but one of the trauma centers have been shut down because too many non-insured people used the trauma centers every year and they could not afford to keep them open. This was several years ago so they may have been able to re-open some since - I'm not sure, however this is a perfect example of what happens when that mindset is prevalent among too many people.

So my question is this - what do we do about this issue? Is government health care a way to make sure people get the care they need without bankrupting the hospitals? Is private health care the answer and stop taking care of people without the ability to pay? If you go to an ER without the ability to pay should you actually get sent to the morgue waiting room to pick out your coffin? I'm serious. I've been thinking about this issue for a couple of days. I haven't done nearly the research on health care reform that I should, so I'm curious about what those of you who have researched it or do work in the health care field think. Politics aside as much as you can please.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Silver Lining

I love social histories - the stories of every day people. They are so much more interesting than political histories - richer, funnier, just more personal. The best thing is that our own families are usually full of these great little nuggets of history, it's just the challenge of getting people to talk about them. No one ever thinks that their experiences are that special, so they tend to not pass them along. It's those of us who come a generation or two later who see how cool that experience really was.

Yesterday I was given the gift of one little nugget of history. In the mail I received a heavy little package from my father's wife, Barb. My father passed away a year ago and Barb has been making her way through his things, passing them along as she knew he would want. It's not an enviable job as my dad could be a souvenir pack rat. This package revealed a small but heavy 10 oz bar of silver. As the story goes:

My grandparents purchased silver futures as an investment. Shortly after the option expired and they did not renew it, a Brinks truck pulled into the yard and delivered their silver! It came from the mint in the form of bars. Lots of bars according to the story.

The biggest headache of the transaction was what to do with all that silver. Where could they hide it? Should they sell it? Why hadn't they just paid better attention to the notices and renewed their futures?

Over the years, lots of things were discussed, lamented and laughed over the dilemma created by their investment adventure. Somehow the silver ended up in a basement storage freezer end to end under frozen fruit cups and pork chops. Of course no one knew this is where the silver went except my grandparents. I remember my parents helping my grandparents move and my mom asking why that freezer weighed so much. Grandpa said it was just a really good freezer! Now we know, it was full of silver in the bottom!

When grandma passed away a few years ago, the silver was distributed to her children. I never knew about any of this until my little package arrived. There's so much about this story that makes me laugh. My grandparents lived through the depression, of course they didn't think to put that silver in the bank - banks weren't safe. I now know why Grandma was worried about our going into the freezer too much when we visited.

My little silver bar is probably worth about $400. But I won't sell it. It's a reminder of where I came from. My grandparents desire to make more for their children than they had. Their sense of humor that my sisters and I inherited. The reminder that the value of life is based on much more than money - it's the quality of time you spend with your family and friends.